RABO AGRIFINANCE, LLC FKA RABO AGRIFINANCE, INC., Plaintiff-Judgment Creditor,
ANGELA SILLS, Defendant-Judgment Debtor.
in the Court of Appeals 30 January 2019.
by plaintiff from order entered 24 April 2018 by Judge Mark
E. Klass in Harnett County No. 16 CVS 2096 Superior Court.
Bond Dickinson (US) LLP, by Michael Montecalvo, for
appellee brief filed.
Sills, a farmer in Sampson County, applied for a loan from
Rabo Agrifinance, LLC, an Iowa company that offers financing
to farmers and other agricultural businesses. The loan
contract included a clause providing that Sills consented to
personal jurisdiction in the Iowa courts.
later defaulted on the loan and Rabo obtained a default
judgment against Sills in an Iowa state court. When Rabo
sought to enforce that judgment in North Carolina, Sills
sought relief from the judgment under Rule 60(b)(4), arguing
that the Iowa court did not have personal jurisdiction over
her. The trial court agreed and granted relief from the Iowa
explained below, we reverse the trial court's order. The
parties' contract is governed by Iowa law and the consent
to jurisdiction clause is valid under Iowa law. Accordingly,
the Iowa court properly exercised jurisdiction over Sills and
the judgment is enforceable in our State courts.
and Procedural History
December 2007, Angela Sills, a resident of Sampson County,
entered into an account agreement with Rabo Agrifinance, LLC,
an Iowa business, to secure financing for a farming
operation. The agreement contained a clause stating that
Sills "knowingly and voluntarily consent[s] to be
subject to the jurisdiction in the State of Iowa for purposes
of adjudicating any rights and liabilities of the
parties." After Sills defaulted on the loan, Rabo
obtained a default judgment of $61, 113.78 plus interest from
a state trial court in Iowa.
then sought to enforce the Iowa judgment against Sills in
North Carolina. Sills moved for relief from the Iowa
judgment, asserting that the judgment should be set aside
because she had never been in Iowa, had no contacts with
Iowa, and was unaware of the consent to jurisdiction clause
in the contract. After a hearing, the trial court granted
Sills's motion for relief from the judgment under Rule
60(b)(4) based on lack of personal jurisdiction. Rabo timely
case is governed by the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign
Judgments Act, which addresses recognition and enforcement of
other states' judgments in the North Carolina court
system. N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 1C-1701-1C-1708. The Act
provides that a judgment debtor may seek relief from a
foreign judgment on any ground "for which relief from a
judgment of this State would be allowed." N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 1C-1705(a). Although this language is broad, it
is limited by the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United
States Constitution. As our Supreme Court has explained,
"the defenses preserved under North Carolina's UEFJA
are limited by the Full Faith and Credit Clause to those
defenses which are directed to the validity and enforcement
of a foreign judgment . . . such as. . . that the rendering
state lacked personal or subject matter jurisdiction."
DOCRX, Inc. v. EMI Servs. of North Carolina, LLC,
367 N.C. 371, 382, 758 S.E.2d 390, 397 (2014).
the trial court granted relief from the judgment after
concluding that the Iowa court lacked personal jurisdiction
over Sills. The trial court's order is focused primarily
on Sills's contacts with the State of Iowa but we need
not address that question because, on appeal, Rabo does not
dispute Sills's lack of contact with Iowa generally.
Instead, Rabo focuses on the fact that the parties entered
into the ...